Expecting Elite success, not wins

Winning the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite Series event at Santee Cooper Lakes totally shocked me. It doesn’t seem right. I did not expect to win here. I don’t know if you expect to win any tournament, but I do expect to do well. If you do have a chance to win, it just happens. The camper still has the trophy in it, and watching my cameraman Aaron do the editing for my YouTube channel, I can’t even watch it. We both get emotional about it. It is all surreal. 

I almost wanted to get in the truck and drive home that night to see my family. I have had people call and text me that I need to make sure and bring the trophy by. My family said it has been crazy what happened in Coalgate when I won. That is the most fulfilling part of it, having a town that supports you 100%. Everyone was watching it go down on Bassmaster LIVE.  

Greg Hackney told me something the first time I ever met him. He didn’t know me, but we were doing a boat show together and ended up talking on stage. He told me I was doing pretty well, and I responded, “Well I’m just trying to get checks and keep surviving.” He said, “As long as you get checks, you’ll make it on the Elites.”

That has always been in my mind, and it stuck with me, especially coming from Hackney. But winning one doesn’t seem real. I can get checks and try to stay consistent, but everyone thinks you go and look for big bass and this or that to win. I go out there and fish for what I can catch every day. It isn’t like I’m holding back or trying to win one. I didn’t necessarily try to win this tournament; I was fishing for the five best bass I could catch each day. I fish as hard as I can every day and catch what I can catch. 

I used to be a run around guy. I used to run around hell’s half acres. Especially in single day tournaments, you could do that. To me, I can’t mentally do that against these guys. So I think the reason I have done better here at Santee Cooper Lakes is I stay put. I burned maybe 12 gallons of gas each day. I put my head down and just went fishing. If you cover enough trees, you hopefully run into six or seven fish. 

Each day I caught a 7-pounder, and on the final day I caught two over 7 pounds. 

My rod and reel setup was crucial as well as the setup of my boat. I was using a Falcon Cara Amistad 7-foot, 3-inch rod with 20-pound Sunline Shooter, and I was throwing a Yum Wooly Bug on a straight shank 3/0 flipping hook and a 1/4- or 5/16-ounce Rougarou tungsten weight. Flipping those trees, the lighter weight seemed to make a difference to me, especially when they were spawning. 

I run a 21 PHX Phoenix, and I love this boat. It got bad on Day 4. I mean it was rough. When we blasted off it was okay, but when the storm moved through at 11:30 a.m., my camera guy just put his head down and didn’t even want to see it. I was able to run the troughs, and I took my time. There was no sense in beating our stuff up. Even if I do win, what would that be worth?

Power-Poles were crucial as well. I could sit there in one spot and pick apart the tree and figure out where the bass were on the tree. 

It wasn’t until Day 3 that I thought this win could happen. On Day 2, Drew Cook and I were standing in line together after I had caught another good sack and moved into the top three. I wasn’t sure if I could catch enough, and I told him I thought I was running out of fish. And he told me, “Just keep chipping away at it.”

For some reason he said, “Palmer is going to win.” There were several guys who said that when I was just talking to them. It’s not like I was overconfident about it, because I thought I was running out of fish. I told them if they keep showing up I would be okay. Then on Day 3 when I got the lead, I knew it could happen. I never got nervous. I slept well every night. I wasn’t worried about anything.

I have a strong belief system in me, and if it is God’s time for me to win, I was going to win. And it happened.